Letter: A question of taste

I’m often asked if I change my home around a lot on account of seeing so many new things and houses every month. The answer is no, I don’t. (I’m also often asked if we keep everything from our shoots. Again, no – sadly, all props go back whence they came.) But it got me thinking about the nature of taste and how we develop a sense of what we like, and whether it’s good always to stick to this. Should I be trying out every new trend at home? Regularly updating my upholstery, wallcoverings and so forth each season? Surely this way madness lies. While, as a magazine, I feel we must endeavour to feature all the latest developments we consider worthy and interesting, we’re certainly not expecting you to flip from one look to the next as each issue arrives on your tablet or doormat.

Thus, I conclude the following: a bit like dating, the process of happy home-making is one of trying different things until you discover what works for you, satisfies your soul and gives you joy. And there are no shortcuts to this, although it takes longer for some than for others! What is key is to make an active choice by defining, and then refining, your parameters. What are your absolute must-haves? What are you prepared to compromise on? How do you want to feel? Then, go for something that fulfils these carefully defined criteria at a price point you can afford. The only reasons to do things differently, therefore, would be any of the following: your context alters (for example, you move house, divorce or emigrate); you’re able to upgrade on quality; or you yourself change. The point being, if you really work out what moves your inner being, it’ll probably never change; instead, it can simply be tweaked or updated over time. Personally, I take great comfort in those moments when I realise I’ve made a considered choice about something and can stop seeking alternatives or questioning my selection, from settling on my favourite flavour of tea to a person to love (although people have to choose you back!). So, I believe it is in careful decision-making that peace resides.

But pause a moment: making decisions is not the same as subsequently being attached to a specific outcome – that’s control, which is rooted in fear. In short, you can only see clearly when you surrender to things not necessarily going the way you intended. Such is the splendid irony of life!

14 things that I love, and always will…

• Verveine tea

• Eero Saarinen’s marble-topped ‘Tulip’ tables

• Robin Day’s ‘Forum’ sofa

• Anything rose or lavender scented

• Tumi luggage

• ‘Carrara Lithoverde’ marble from Salvatori

• Duralex tumblers

• Tiles, especially textured ones

• Colours with a dose of grey in them

• Gloss and silk paint finishes, never flat matt

• Plain velvet for curtains

• Alignment

• Delicate detail, from embossing on towels to architraves and dado rails

• The sound, colours and essence of the sea, and sky

The sky is ever a perfect palette, showing teal, top left, to turquoise via celadon to palest blue and black.

The sky is ever a perfect palette, showing teal, top left, to turquoise via celadon to palest blue and black.


First published as my Editor’s Letter in the May 2014 edition of ELLE Decoration UK

ELLE Decoration Subscriber cover May 2014

ELLE Decoration Subscriber cover May 2014


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